First Graders Discover: My Matisse

By: Phaedra Mastrocola
Lower School Visual Arts

This year, first graders had the wonderful opportunity to visit Matisse: The Cut-Outs—the largest and most extensive presentation of the cut-outs ever mounted—at the Museum of Modern Art. The trip provided the impetus for an extended unit of study that encompassed the entire first grade art curriculum.

Students improved their cutting skills as they discovered the differences between organic and geometric shapes and positive and negative space. They learned to work both collaboratively and individually as they learned about composition, large and small, with a focus on size, placement, overlapping, and color. And they made color choices based on temperature and visual impact. Finally, they used their fine motor skills to strategically thumb tack their collages together, much like Matisse, adding an element of dimensionality to their final pieces.

Each of Matisse’s cut-outs is a study in form, color, space, and composition. First graders have studied each of these important principles throughout this extended unit of study.